Can You Use Chaos Theory to Beat the House?

min read
Roulette wheel and casino chips on a reflective surface.
BetMGM Dec 05, 2022, 9:29 AM

Perhaps chaos theory can help you gain an advantage over the house when playing casino games. But what is chaos theory and how can it be applied to live dealer casino games like roulette and blackjack? Read on to find out.

What is chaos theory?

Chaos theory offers a delightful contradiction. It’s the mathematical science of predicting an unpredictable system. It lets structure emerge where it appears there is none. 

When it comes to complicated systems, chaos theory states that a very small difference in starting conditions can produce vastly different outcomes. 

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “butterfly effect” – a concept developed by Edward Lorenz, an MIT meteorologist and one of the founders of chaos theory. He stated that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia could cause an outsize effect, such as a hurricane in the Atlantic, half a world away. More precisely, in systems that behave well – that is, without chaotic effects – small differences will result in small effects. However, with chaotic systems, like meteorology, the smallest of differences can result in chaotic effects.

You can see now how chaos theory might be applied to online casino games, which appear utterly random. In 1908, Henri Poincaré, a mathematician, noted that with casino table games like roulette, a small difference in the initial speed of the ball, which is difficult to measure accurately, might have a huge effect on where it lands. 

Roulette and chaos theory

When it comes to chaos theory and playing casino games for real money, there’s good news and bad news. Let’s start with the good news. We recommend reading the research published in the journal Chaos if you’re looking at how to play roulette at a casino. A group of chaos theorists seems to have found a way to beat the house. They were able to model the motion of the wheel and ball, both in simulations and using a physical roulette wheel, which gave them an advantage in predicting roulette outcomes. 

Because you can’t bring along your trusty computer simulator when you play at a casino, the researchers came up with an alternative method to achieve an advantage. They noted the time it took for a roulette ball to pass a fixed point in order to get a rough estimate of the velocity of the ball. Using the equations presented in the paper, researchers could calculate percentages to predict where the ball would land 59% of the time. By betting in line with these predictions, players could get an 18% return compared with a -2.7% return in the normal course of playing roulette. 

Better still, casino table games like roulette offer an even bigger advantage if the wheel lets the ball drop from one side to the rim – i.e., a crooked table. Under these circumstances, predictions become simpler and more reliable. It’s a case of small deviations in the setup causing large changes in the results. 

Before you leap up and down with joy, minor adjustments and quality control by casinos will limit any wonky roulette wheels. It’s not uncommon for large casinos to do wheel maintenance once a week or more. They also use powerful software to locate any anomalies. And with online casino games, there is obviously no way to encounter wheels of this nature. 

Blackjack and chaos theory

Blackjack is not a random game – the probability of the card being dealt is determined by the cards that come before it. The odds can be changed if a large number of high-value cards are still to be dealt. The idea here is that chaos theory can find some order in seemingly random data when playing online blackjack with live dealers. 

However, here’s the problem: there is no large change from, for example, subtracting one ace from a large six-deck shoe. Even though six decks of randomly shuffled cards could present opportunities to note what cards have been played and the value of the cards left, the system, by definition, is not a complex one. No small change to the starting condition will lead to big changes by the end of the shoe. There is no tipping point where things suddenly change dramatically.

When it comes to enjoying casino table games, there are many ways we can fool ourselves, via common cognitive biases, such as recency bias, or by believing that all casino games are games of skill. With many casino games, there is definitely a big random or luck factor involved. 

Play casino games at BetMGM

Even if chaos theory won’t necessarily help with predicting the outcome, you can still enjoy a wide range of thrilling games, including casino table games, casino dice games and a host of other online casino games, when you register with BetMGM. Sign up today to play at our casino in a safe and stimulating environment. 

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.